Action taken by one country or group of countries to harm the economic interest of another country or group of countries, usually to bring about pressure for social or political change. Sanctions normally take the form of restrictions on imports or exports, or on financial transactions. They may be applied to specific items or they may be comprehensive trade bans. There is considerable disagreement over their effectiveness. Critics point out that they are easily evaded and often inflict more pain on those they are designed to help than on the governments they are meant to influence. They can also harm the country that imposes sanctions, through the loss of export markets or raw material supplies. In addition the target country may impose retaliatory sanctions. See also embargo.